World-class arts and culture on a budget? Chicago has you covered. Here are 20 museums and attractions with admission fees of $10 or less — and often no admission fees at all!

Museums

1. DuSable Museum of African American History

General Admission: $10

740 E 56th Pl  
773-947-0600
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 12-5pm; closed Mondays

DuSable Museum of African American History - Founders Hall

Located in historic Hyde Park, the stunning DuSable Museum of African American History was founded in 1961 by teacher and art historian Dr. Margaret Burroughs and other leading Chicago citizens. It is one of the few independent institutions of its kind in the United States, making it its mission to collect, document, preserve and study the history and culture of Africans and African Americans. The current collection numbers more than 15,000 pieces, including paintings, sculpture, print works and historical memorabilia. 

2. Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago

General Admission: $10

1155 E 58th St
University of Chicago
773-702-9520
Hours: Tuesday & Thursday-Sunday 10am-5pm, Wednesday 10am-8pm; closed Mondays

oriental institute

Founded in 1919, the Oriental Institute is a world-renowned center for the study of ancient Near Eastern civilizations. The museum displays objects recovered during Oriental Institute excavations, with a focus on Ancient Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia, and the ancient site of Megiddo. Rotating special exhibits are also featured.

3. Chicago Sports Museum

General Admission: $10

835 N Michigan Ave
Water Tower Place
312-202-0500
Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:30am-8:30pm, Friday 11:30am-9pm, Saturday 11am-9pm, Sunday 11am-6pm

Chicago Sports Museum Basketballs

This highly interactive museum celebrates the world of Chicago sports, using hi-tech simulated experiences, skill challenges, relics and stats – all combined with a collection of unique sports memorabilia. It's a playground for sports fans!

4. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

General Admission: $9

30 N Cannon Dr
Lincoln Park Grounds (North Pond)
773-7555-5100
Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday & Sunday 10am-5pm

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum Chicago

If nature inspires you, head to Lincoln Park, where you’ll find the waterside Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum nestled amid native plantings, fountains and waterfalls. You’ll see everything from live native animals to nature-inspired art here. Most notable, though, is the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, the Museum's internationally renowned 2,700-square-foot greenhouse where more than 1,000 butterflies (40 species) are housed. 

5. McCormick Bridgehouse Museum

General Admission: $6

99 Chicago Riverwalk
312-977-0227
Hours: Thursday-Monday 10am-5pm, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays​

McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum

The five-story McCormick Bridgehouse Museum celebrates Chicago’s world-famous moveable bridges, and provides an opportunity to explore an historic landmark bridgehouse. At river level, visitors can view the massive gears that move Chicago’s famous bridges up and down. As you ascend the building, you'll learn all about the Chicago River. Upon reaching the very top, you'll be treated to magnificent 360-degree views of the city. (Note: Only the first floor is handicap accessible.) 

6. Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

Suggested Donation: $5 

756 N Milwaukee Ave
312-243-9088
Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday & Friday-Saturday 11am-6pm, Thursday 11am-7pm, Sunday 12-5pm; closed Mondays

Intuit Main Gallery

Founded in 1991, Intuit is dedicated to the appreciation of intuitive and outsider art through world-class exhibitions; resources for scholars and students; a Permanent Collection with holdings of nearly 1,100 works of art; the Henry Darger Room Collection; the Robert A. Roth Study Center; and educational programming. The Henry Darger Room Collection in particular is a fascinating window into the cloistered world of this self-taught artist, creator of the Vivian Girls.

7. National Museum of Mexican Art

General Admission: Free

1852 W 19th St, Chicago
312-738-1503
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm; closed Mondays

National Museum of Mexican Art

This renowned museum is located in the heart of the Pilsen neighborhood, which is itself rich in Latino history. Wander the halls to discover a collection of more than 10,000 works that bring to life the richness of Mexican art and culture.

8. CHICAGO DESIGN MUSEUM

General Admission: Free

Block 37

108 N State St, 3rd floor
​312-894-6263
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 12-7pm; closed Sundays and Mondays

Design Museum interior

Located at Block 37 on State Street (aka shopping mecca), this tiny (and free) museum displays incredibly creative changing exhibits on everything from design to architecture. Recent exhibitions have included paper arts from around the world, and games in our modern culture. 

9. MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY

General Admission: Free

600 S Michigan Ave,
Columbia College
312-663-5554
​Hours: Monday-Wednesday & Friday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Thursday 10am-8pm, Sunday 12-5pm

The Museum of Contemporary Photography

Tucked away in the South Loop, within Columbia College, the Museum of Contemporary Photography is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets. It’s a small but mighty museum, regularly carrying the work of local photographers. The museum’s Midwest Photographers Project cycles through new and established Midwest photographers, each examining a different social experience, from the slums of Mumbai to electronics and teens.

10. Smart Museum of Art

General Admission: Free

The University of Chicago
5550 S Greenwood Ave
773-702-0200
Hours: 10am-5pm daily

Smart Museum of Art@Smart Museum

Nestled on the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park, the Smart Museum houses more than 15,000 artworks, ranging from European paintings and Asian arts to contemporary and modern art. This is also home to The H. C. Westermann Study Collection, which is one of the most significant public collections of artwork and archival material related to the artist’s life and work. Find out more about the collections and special exhibits.

Attractions

1. Chicago Riverwalk

General Admission: Free

Downtown Chicago
877-300-6746
Hours: 6 am - 11pm daily

City Winery Chicago Riverwalk

Located on the south bank of the Chicago River, the pedestrian-friendly Chicago Riverwalk stretches 1.25 miles from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street. Along the way you’ll discover intimate coves, breezy cafes, wineries and bars, public art, monuments, museums, and a boatload of excursions on the water. An achievement of 15 years of planning and completed in 2016 "to transform the Chicago River into a recreational destination and weave the life of the River into the urban fabric of the city," the Chicago Riverwalk has garnered 19 international awards to date, including an Urban Land Institute 2017–2018 Global Award for Excellence.

Check out 10 Things You Should Absolutely Do on the Chicago Riverwalk.

2. Millennium Park

General Admission: Free

201 E Randolph St
312-742-1168

Horus: 6am-11pm daily

Chicago Blues Festival

Millennium Park is an absolute jewel, bringing together city and nature seamlessly. The stainless steel surfaces of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Cloud Gate gleam in the afternoon sun, waters shimmer in the midst of Lurie Gardens, and native planting sway majestically in Lake Michigan's soft breezes. This is the kind of place that entices you to explore, discover and enjoy all day long. What's more, Millennium Park plays host to FREE art installations (including the famed Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate aka "The Bean"), outdoor concerts, film screenings, outdoor workouts and tours, so its no surprise it remains a travel itinerary hot spot year round. 

Check out 10 Things You Shouldn’t Miss at the Millennium Park Campus.

3. NAVY PIER

General Admission: Free

600 E Grand Ave 
312-595-7437

Hours: Sunday-Thursday 10am-10pm, Friday & Saturday 10am-Midnight

Navy Pier Chicago

Navy Pier is one of Chicago's top attractions, welcoming in excess of 9.3 million visitors a year. Stretching six city blocks into Lake Michigan, this year-round destination comes to life with attractions and activities that span every interest. While the Centennial Wheel, rides at Pier Park, cruises on Lake Michigan, the Children’s Museum, etc. are ticketed, there are a ton of free things to do here, including strolling the Crystal Gardens, a breathtaking, indoor, one‐acre botanical garden housed within a six‐story glass atrium; viewing Navy Pier's eclectic public art; listening to music at the Miller Lite Beer Garden (May through October); and getting the full wow factor as you watch fireworks synchronized with music over Lake Michigan (biweekly shows are scheduled on Wednesdays and Saturdays from Memorial Day through Labor Day).

4. LINCOLN PARK ZOO

General Admission: Free

2001 N Clark St
773-742-2000
Hours: Monday-Friday 10-5pm, Saturday & Sunday 10-6:30pm

Lincoln Park Zoo Statue

Lincoln Park Zoo is a 35-acre wildlife oasis that stands in the foreground of luxury apartment buildings lining Lincoln Park itself. Founded in 1868, this is one of the country's oldest free zoos. Just next door, Farm-in-the-Zoo transports you to a Midwestern family farm in the middle of the city. Situated along idyllic Nature Boardwalk, a prairie pond ecosystem, this interactive farm gives you the chance to feed cows, pet goats and see chickens, pigs, rabbits and ponies up-close. In the winter, the Farm is the location of a wonderful ice-skating rink, while ZooLights illuminates the Lincoln Park Zoo grounds with colorful displays of light, filling the attraction with festive spirit.

5. LINCOLN PARK CONSERVATORY & GARDENS

General Admission: Free

2391 N Stockton Dr
312-742-7736
Hours: 9am-5pm daily

Lincoln Park Conservatory

Beauty and tranquility imbue the Victorian era Lincoln Park Conservatory greenhouse. Oxygen-rich air, fragrant tropical flowers, ancient ferns and towering palms are among the multi-sensory experiences to be had here. Built between 1890 and 1895, the historic conservatory includes four display houses: The Palm House, Orchid House, Fern Room and Show House. And just outside, you can wander the Formal Garden, Bates Fountain, the Von Schiller Monument, the Old English-style Grandmother’s Garden and the Shakespeare Monument.

6. GARFIELD PARK CONSERVATORY

General Admission: Free

300 N Central Park Ave
312-746-5100
Hours: Thursday-Tuesday 9am-5pm, Wednesday 9am-8pm

Garfield Park Conservatory-1

Garfield Park Conservatory boasts both display houses and outdoor gardens across its 14 acres. Opened in 1908, the conservatory was designed by renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen, and features rare and exotic plants from around the globe (5,000 varieties in total), it remains one of the largest and most stunning public gardens under glass.

7. Chicago Cultural Center

General Admission - Free

78 E Washington St
312-744-6630
Hours: 10am-7pm daily

Kerry James Marshall Mural Chicago Cultural Center

Opened in 1897, the "People's Palace" stretches from Washington to Randolph Streets, and Michigan Avenue to Garland Court. The building was designed in the Classical Revival style, taking inspiration from the monumental structures of Ancient Greece and Rome. Most notable is a luminous 38-foot-diameter dome by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company of New York. Restored in 2008, it is the largest Tiffany dome in the world, containing approximately 30,000 individual glass pieces. The Chicago Cultural Center is listed as a Chicago Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places; FREE 45-minute building tours are offered at 1:15pm from Wednesday through Saturday. Best of all, critically acclaimed art exhibits, performances, lectures and film screenings are available to you every day of the week for free all under one roof. Check out 7 Free Things to Do at the Chicago Cultural Center.

8. Art on TheMART

General Admission - Free

TheMART
222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza #470

Art on theMart is a much-anticipated permanent large-scale lighting installation, scheduled to debut on the Chicago Riverwalk on September 29, 2018 at 7:15pm. This video art piece will project across nearly three acres of the south, river-facing façade of theMART, the building formerly known as The Merchandise Mart. TheMART will provide ‘the largest canvas in the world’ for video art, with a curated, ongoing series of ever-changing images becoming a permanent nighttime riverfront feature. 

9. Chicago Greeter Tours

Tickets: Free

Various Locations
312-945-4231

Chicago Greeter tour in Chinatown

The best thing about Chicago Greeter private guided walking tours is that you're getting the skinny on Chicago neighborhoods from a local's perspective. Not only that, but language isn't an issue, with the ability to request multilingual guides. You can also customize your visit based on subjects of interest, from history, nature or sports, to architecture and public art.

10. STATUE STORIES CHICAGO

General Admission: Free

Various Locations

Statue Stories Chicago

Statue Stories Chicago is a free, city-wide arts initiative in which Chicago’s most celebrated writers, actors, and comedians were commissioned to write and voice monologues for 30 statues across the city. A smartphone scans the provided QR code, then visitors receive a “call back” from John C. Reilly as Abraham Lincoln or Steve Carell as Man With Fish at the Shedd Aquarium, to name just a few. Together they tell Chicago’s story.  Explore the full list of statues, as well as walking tours.

Check out this monthly guide to 10 Free Things to Do in Chicago.